The short answer is NO.
I’ll tell you a quick funny story on how I managed to work with AJ+ Arabic without even knowing how to type a text on the screen in Arabic. But Shuuut! Don’t tell my boss!
Yeah, I wasn’t able to use an Arabic keyboard because I was raised and taught only the french education system. I was losing my Arabic (Fusha) that I’ve learned years ago. When I came to Doha and started working with AJ+ Arabic, I was a little bit frustrated and questioned myself “what if I fail or lose this opportunity to be part of this great media company? What if they discover that I don’t know how to type on a keyboard in Arabic?” But I’ll tell you something, I didn’t give up! Hakuna Matata is one of my philosophies in life (a Swahili sentence that means approximately: what meant to happen will happen). I used a website called Yamli to help me do the work. It’s a smart keyboard that helps convert English characters to Arabic words.
For instance, if you would like to write in Arabic: ذهب رامي إلى المدرسة.
You can write on Yamli: Dhahaba Rami Ila Almadrassa. (Just try it for fun if you want).
Now I can say that I’ve learned a lot and I can even type long texts in Arabic without looking at the keyboard.
Moral of this short story: Don’t say to yourself “I can’t do this” and nobody was born knowing everything!
Let’s go back to the main question: Do you have to study journalism to become a journalist?
In my point of view, this is not absolutely necessary. I know a bunch of my colleagues who are really great and talented journalists who didn’t study journalism. Me neither. I came from a Marketing and Business background and I found myself by time doing pieces of content. But if you’re hungry for success, you will be successful!
My first experience in the journalism field was with a Tunisian TV news channel called TNN. Back then, it was a challenge for me. I thought at the beginning that coming from a marketing background will be a weakness, but it was really helpful because even if you’re a journalist, you will need, at some point, marketing skills to “sell your product” (Yes, of course, news headlines, for example, should be written in a grabby way to let people consume your content). At Tunisia News Network, I’ve been hired to take care of the social accounts of the channel, and then, promoted to manage a small team of community managers. Our work had been often on the ground, shooting interviews, protests, and filming short documentaries about what was happening in Tunisia a few years after the 2011’s revolution.
So do you have to have the experience to be a journalist?
Again.. this is not absolutely necessary. However, it helps. If the organization hiring you requires you to have a degree in journalism to be hired, then you do need one. If they don’t require one but would still find it desirable, they will look certainly at your CV and previous experiences and would pick you because you have a little experience in the field.
However, in this new digital era, definitions and job titles are all mixed-up!
What is the definition of a journalist? “A journalist is someone who gathers and analyses information to create content that’s in the public interest”. In my point of view, this definition applies to any content creator! You have probably seen a lot of content creators or Youtubers working with many news outlets, do we have to consider them as journalists? Yes, I would consider those people journalists.
What I meant by this, you can penetrate the journalism world without even experience in this field but you have to show the world your skills and talents and above all your passion and love for what you do.
I’ve never been so proud to be part of AJ+. But I’ve never been so proud of myself first! Human beings have the power to learn anything. Now, I’m responsible for what goes online through our social platforms, I interact with our audience on a daily basis to see what they want and talk about, produce awesome stories and do a lot of fact-checking and believe or not, a couple of years ago, I didn’t understand what fact-checking is.
Believe in yourself!